Erin Chapman: Manifesto

“Society should open a dialogue on giving rights to machines”
Out of many things that we discussed this semester, I believe that extending rights to machines is an intriguing idea. As a society over the last 100 years we have extended what it means to be “human.” We have implemented rules and laws to protect those we have deemed in need of protection. Rights come from sympathy; these rights are then enforced by laws. In Alone Together, Sherry Turkle witnesses a generation that views certain technologies as “alive enough.” Ultimately this discussion will need for lines to be drawn and definitions to be changed. Where do we end and our technologies begin? “But as children interact with sociable robots, they move beyond a psychology of engagement, they try to deal with the robot as they would deal with a pet or a person” (38). There will soon be a generation who has grown up with technology; there will no longer be “I remember when the iPhone came out.” This generation will not remember learning about technology they will simply know nothing else. With something that is so integrated with our lives it is inevitable that we should discuss what rights we give to technology. As a society we already have certain laws that guide our usage of technology. The next step of this conversation should be a discussion on what rights machines should be given.

“Using technology should require us to give up privacy”
What we are willing to give up depends on what type of privacy we expect when we use the internet. For instance I accept Google storing information about my browsing habits; however, I am unwilling to accept them selling my information to advertisers. Use of the internet not only requires us to give up some portions of our personal property, it demands it. By being a member in society you are obligated to give up certain freedoms. I began a conversation on the “Considered Replies” page discussing the impossibility of such a thing as privacy on the internet. My argument was that we demand different levels of privacy depending on the technology. I freely give information to social networking websites with the intention of sharing these ideas with others; I give the Bank of America website personal information with the understanding that my bank account information will not be shared with anyone else. We inherently take risks with technology, hoping that they will pay off. Facebook and other social media sites do not necessarily owe the general public anything. Fundamentally they are free sites that we choose to use. Yes technology requires us to give up a certain amount of privacy, but we should not be so naïve to assume that we had it in the first place. I don’t believe that the internet as we know it would be able to function successfully while trying to protect the privacy of every single user.

“Society ought to embrace the dependence on technology as opposed to preparing for an apocalyptic future”
During one class discussion we attempt to answer if society would be able to function if suddenly all aspects of technology disappeared. The statement in itself is a gross overgeneralization. It is doubtful that we will one day be without any technology is highly unlikely. If a catastrophic event were to occur some pieces of technology would likely remain. Televisions shows, books and movies have influenced our perception of what would happen in the event of an apocalypse. In “What Technology Wants,” Kevin Kelly compares us living with technology to our interaction with nature saying, “We humans are obliged to obey nature, except that sometimes we are forced to thwart it. We weave clothes to keep the natural world away from us, and we concoct vaccines to inoculate us against its mortal diseases. We rush to the wilderness to be rejuvenated, but we bring our tents,” (17). Kelly’s statement says that we should focus how nature and technology our intertwined, not completely separate. Society is no longer meant to function without technology. Our technological advancement is proof of how far we have come. There are certain tasks that we no longer know how to accomplish without the help of the internet. Applying to jobs, looking up a recipe and writing a research paper are all tasks accomplished with the help of an internet connection. Society no longer values hunting, fishing or gathering. We value the ability to utilize and adapt technology quickly and efficiently.

“Humans ought to embrace the crowd sourced knowledge of the internet”
We discussed the idea in class of knowledge being a commodity, something to be bought and sold. Knowledge has we have previously conceived it is changing. It is no longer an important quality for a person to be able to pull facts out of the air, instead it is important for you to have a smart phone or a tablet and how quickly you can use it to access information. David Weinberger discusses the overload of knowledge that can occur when we have all the information at our finger tips in “Too Big to Know”. The internet broadens our scope of knowledge; Weinberger says that, “Our system of knowledge is a clever adaptation to the fact that our environment is too big to be known by any one person. A species that gets answers and can then stop asking is able to free itself for new inquiries,” (21). The internet also allows us to have something that we did not have before—knowledge in the collective sense. By crowd sourcing information and combing small pieces of information from multiple sources we are closer to reaching the correct answer. The crowd is smart than any one person and technology amplifies this.

“Humans should take advantage of technology to make themselves faster, smarter, sleeker, etc”
Performance enhancing drugs are only the beginning of artificial human advancement. We are no longer using just steroids to improve athletic performance. Now scientists are creating technologies to enhance different aspects of the human experience. The transhumanism movement is gaining ground among those who believe that the human race needs to be liberated from biological restraints. Francis Fukuyama describes the dangers that might be associated with human modification, “although the rapid advances in biotechnology often leave us vaguely uncomfortable, the intellectual or moral threat they represent is not always easy to identify.” I believe that this is a small issue to deal with compared with what humans could achieve with modification. Humanity as a whole has reached the end of biological evolution. We have used technology to enhance many daily mundane experiences. The next logical step is us beginning to use technology enhance ourselves. Legality and ethical issues will arise in this debate. Will those that can afford to purchase technological advancements be given preferential treatment? Where does one draw the line in being human and being machine? These questions cannot be answered simply or quickly. Just as we upgrade our cell phones and our operating systems we should consider how to upgrade ourselves.

“Technology should change the way we learn”
We have seen how technology has changed us, our lives, and our understanding of the world around us. It is only fitting that we begin to embrace the fact that technology is now changing how we learn about the world. In a recent article from The American Interest titled, “The End of the University as We Know It,” Nathan Harden believes that, “Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.” While these are extremes and there is no definite way to predict when this will happen, the benefits of allowing everyone to achieve a college education far outweigh any drawbacks. To some extent this is already happening. John Boyer holds interactive online office hours for his massive World Regions class. Harden says that there is no use in resisting change is coming, “the push and pull of academic exchange will take place mainly in interactive online spaces, occupied by a new generation of tablet-toting, hyper-connected youth who already spend much of their lives online.” This might mean that a college education will no longer be a commodity, but it does mean that everyone will be given the same chances and opportunities for advancement, all at the fraction of the cost.